Artist Spotlight: Barbara L. Edwards

Artist Spotlight: Barbara Edwards

This October we are honored to display the work of Barbara L. Edwards. “Abstractions of the Mind” is a collection of 20 paintings on display at our Morgan Street location. Scratches, twists, swooshes and bursts- the images range from light-hearted bubbles floating on canvas to heavy accumulations of weeds and plaster. Each painting seems to have a conversation with the light in the room. Some have a reflective layer built in that you wouldn’t notice until a flash come across its surface. For others, the density of the acrylic is what draws you in to explore. I asked the artist some questions about her work- to learn more about her, how she works, and how she sees the work herself.

How long have you considered yourself a painter/artist?

I started painting in 2008. We were remodeling my bedroom and were looking for a big painting. Whatever I brought home the family did not like. On a whim I bought a canvas and some brushes and did a painting in the basement unbeknown to anyone. When I put it up everyone loved it. It was so funny when I told them I did it… My friends would come over to see the remodel and would comment on the painting. Needless to say I was hooked and have been painting ever since.

Are you primarily a painter?

Currently I only paint and do mixed media. However I have built and designed outdoor water features for both of my homes, love to landscape, and work in the yard. I’m drawn to sculpture so maybe someday….

What inspires you? Who inspires you?

Every day the colors and beauty outside my door awakens a multitude of ideas and motivation for my art…..As a teacher and former coach I am inspired by and amazed by the human spirit, it’s emotions, struggles and connections to one another and their environment……I always have music on when I’m painting…Going to galleries, museums, reading and visiting with other artists….All of these things.

Do you start with alternative media (the yarn and slips of paper in some of your pieces) or do they integrate themselves organically?

Sometimes I will see something and know immediately how to use it and start there- the shredded pieces for instance or the seaweed brush and tree bark I collect on walks. Other times I start with paint, medium, and add as I’m going. To be honest there are times I have no idea and just go with the flow. If I don’t like it I paint over it with gesso and start again. There are many layers under the finish product. Also I paint in phases from using only brushes to pallet knifes to only paint. I manipulate them without using any tools, only gravity.

Do you have formal training?

I have no formal training. I’ve learned through research, experimentation, trial and error. Early on I did take a class with abstract artist Patricia Moore. She guided me in the process of applying for shows. It’s where I met several friends who I’m still in touch with and with whom I love sharing ideas.

Your work, for me, jumps from being bubbly, light hearted, to sometimes dense and frantic. Can you speak to why a viewer might read different paintings this way?

I suppose my mood at the time, what’s going on in my personal life, where I paint (here in Chicago or Myrtle Beach), as well as my coaching and sports background. The series I am working on at the time effects it as well. When I paint there is certain energy or urgency to my work which I do not control. Other times I feel there is softness, calming balance…

If you could have a dinner party with four other artists, who would they be?

I would definitely love to have dinner with Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell ….

Does Chicago inspire the work that you make?

Yes, Chicago is # 1 (I love the lakefront) and where I create most of my work. Chicago has been my home for the past 37 years. Myrtle Beach where I go to vacation (I love the beach) is another source of inspiration. New York City is where I grew up and upstate NY where I spent summers as a kid. All of these places have their place in my work.

If your paintings could be on display in the place of your choice, where would that be?

My biggest thrill was seeing my painting in Times Square NYC. I love wherever my art is on display. Having said that traveling anywhere is an adventure! Besides being shown in Chicago at the Art Institute, I would like to be at the MoMA in New York City and Paris of course! My husband and I once spent an entire summer in France. I’m looking forward to going back some day.

To see more work by the artist, please visit her website:

The show will be open until October 31st and can be seen during our normal business hours.

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